March 13th. Turning Point #2.

March 13th. Turning Point #2.

This week, in follow-up to Sunday’s Sermon and 2nd hour activity/discussion, our Lenten devotionals will feature stories of “Turning Points”–moments where one’s journey moved in a new direction. 


John 11:33-36

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

“Meet Me At the Veil”

For most of my life I, thankfully, have had no experience with grief. I knew very little about it. But a month ago all that changed. A month ago my husband of two and a half years suddenly died. Suicide. I am now a 23-year-old widow.

Grief has come crashing down upon me, around me, and through me. It has become a part of my life and is becoming an integral part of who I am … and will be from here on. I now know more about grief than any woman my age should know.

I have learned the classic five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining with God, depression, acceptance. I quickly learned thereafter that these stages are not progressive. When I was in the depths of depression it did not mean that I had passed through the anger or the bargaining or the sweet “I’m fine! How are you?” denial of what was churning in my soul. All five stages arrive whenever they feel like it and sometimes all within the time it takes for the light to change. I am learning that grief is not an orderly march from one stage to the next. It is more like a dance where I am handed from one random whirling partner to the next with no idea when the music is going to stop.

I have also learned that you cannot outrun grief. My husband tried that. As long as he was busy at work or competing in sports, he managed to stay ahead of his past. But as soon as the events in our life caused him to slow down, the gargantuan grief of his childhood crept up from behind and tackled him. A month ago, it wrestled him to the ground and killed him.

No. Trying to outrun grief is not a good idea. Trying to stuff it away into a moldy, locked closet won’t work either. The only way I can deal with grief is to face it, to draw it closer to me. I must allow it time and space to do its work in me.

Two weeks after my husband’s death, I ran across this sermon by Daniel Harrell. In the second to the last paragraph, Daniel sharpened my aim at grief. As the cross of Jesus teaches me, as Good Friday teaches me, I must sit with my darkness rather than try to outrun it. I must yield to this emptiness in order for it to transform me. But rather than passing through it in order to emerge a whole person on the other side, to yield to loss is to absorb it into my soul—like the dirt that absorbs death and decay—and from that rich soil to then emerge as a new person, a new creation. Somehow deeper. Somehow fuller. Somehow larger. Somehow like Christ, because of the cross. Somehow I must allow my husband’s death to be planted deep within my soul sprouting forth into new life and my rebirth.

Jesus has purchased my grief and is forging something beautiful and precious to fill the emptiness I now feel. Still, I am impatient. I want this dance to be over. It’s painful. There are times when I would rather hug a porcupine than dance with Anger or Depression. Acceptance and even Denial are pleasant dance partners in their own way, but I know I cannot dance with them to the exclusion of their buddies.

So what does this mean to turn and embrace grief?

The fabric of my life has been woven with the multicolored threads of the ones I love and who love me. I am very lucky that way, I guess. A third of that fabric has been knitted, strand over strand, with the yarn of my beloved. His death does not mean I unravel that fabric back to my high school years and start over. It also does not mean I cut it off and tuck it away in a drawer under a jumble of socks. I am also not going to hang it in the gallery of my memory as an idol to what was. My beloved “is” – he was given the gift of eternal life when he accepted Christ into his heart. He lives beyond death. That truth causes me to not drop his skein of yarn but to continue to honor him and my faith by weaving his spirit into my life along with the crimson cord of grief gently intertwined with the golden thread of Jesus. I will always smile when I catch myself displaying one of his mannerisms or when I hear his laugh swelling in my breast. And each day when I see his drop-dead-gorgeous eyes reflected in my own, I shall gladly pause to knit one more stitch of his spirit into the tapestry of my life.

Consider this. When they found his body, it was in a prayerful posture. On this side of life he was praying in perhaps a one-sided conversation with our Lord. A moment later, he lifted his head and saw Him face-to-face and was able, perhaps for the first time, to hear His voice clearly. The earthly cacophony of voices in his head were now silenced. The earthly visions of horror were suddenly replaced with the loving and fully compassionate face of his Creator. He is, perhaps for the first time in his adult life, free from guilt, free from shame, free from anxiety, free from torment. He is at peace.

So on these nights when grief has me groping in its darkness, I light my bedside candle, sit up against the headboard with a pillow in my arms and whisper to my beloved, “Meet me at the veil.” And he always shows up, comforted beneath the wings of his angels. In this room there is no draft and yet the candle flickers almost to the point of being extinguished. The breezes from the wings of his angels often announce his arrival.

And as I raise my hand to reach to the veil, he raises his and our spirits touch. Love flows between, among, and around us at this place – this place where the temporal touches the eternal. Love does not recognize the boundary between us. His spirit and mine remain knitted together as two tassels at the hem of our shared embodiment of the Holy Spirit. The love of God bound us together in life and continues to bind us beyond death. Jesus is here at the veil, too. And so is Grief, but its sharp quills and prickly spines have been blunted and cause no pain. Grief sits quietly in my lap, tamed and obedient to the One who is redeeming it.

It is in this place that I whisper my marriage vows repeating the covenant promises I have no intention of breaking. I publicly declared as much at his funeral. And I hear his vows spoken in return. His voice and our promises bring me comfort. They fill me with something eternal which is beyond my understanding and certainly beyond my ability to convey.

I will love again. I am certain of it. And just as my late husband had to accept a secondary position beneath my love of Christ, any future love wanting to weave his threads in with mine will have to respect that reality and become a loving part of it. Any future love will be invited to meet me at the veil, not only to meet my Redeemer, but also to get to know the beloved part of me who lives on beyond it.

My heart is now filled with peace. I embrace my grief and am calmed by it. I embrace my pillow and melt into a deep sleep knowing that I will awake refreshed and welcome a new day … and the joyful beginning to what will become my new life.

REFLECTION. What is a moment where God showed up in your life and the direction you were headed changed? Pause to reflect upon this. Then pray and give God thanks for God’s deep love that meets us, fills  us with peace, and draws near to us in love.


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